A's Deal Again - Davis For Two Arms

Rajai Davis is fast, but this off-season, one might argue that Billy Beane, David Forst, Farhan Zaidi and company are even faster. The Oakland A's have been tearing up the transaction wire since the end of the World Series. The team made another trade today, this time dealing outfielder Rajai Davis for two promising relief arms.

Last Monday, the Oakland A's made headlines when they won the bidding for the right to negotiate with top Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Since that time, nary a day has gone by that the A's haven't made at least one more transaction.

Two days after the Iwakuma transaction, the A's acquired outfielder David DeJesus from the Kansas City Royals for two pitchers - Vince Mazzaro and Justin Marks. Then two days after that, Oakland claimed third-baseman Edwin Encarnacion from the Blue Jays on waivers. After taking the weekend off, the A's were back at it on Wednesday, dealing Davis for relievers Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar.

When the A's acquired DeJesus last week, it became increasingly likely that Oakland would part with one or more of the outfielders on their 40-man roster. Before the Davis deal, Oakland had eight outfielders on the 40-man roster, three of whom had significant major league experience playing centerfield (Davis, Coco Crisp and Ryan Sweeney). So it comes as no surprise that Oakland decided to part ways with Davis, who is arbitration-eligible.

Since being acquired off of waivers from the San Francisco Giants in April 2008, Davis has brought a speed element to Oakland that was last seen at the Coliseum during the days of Rickey Henderson. In three seasons with the A's, he stole 116 bases and he had 50 of those stolen bases in 2010. The 2009 season was Davis' best as a major leaguer, as he hit .305 with 41 stolen bases in 125 games for Oakland.

Davis' speed was certainly an asset for Oakland, as was his ability to play all three outfield positions. However, he walked only 26 times in 143 games last season and wasn't patient enough to be the A's everyday lead-off hitter. When Oakland picked up Crisp's option and brought in DeJesus, Davis' role on the team was relegated to a bench role.

In return for Davis, the A's have received two relievers who spent the entire 2010 season at the Double-A level in Magnuson and Farquhar.

Magnuson is a University of Louisville grad who was born in Canada and lived there until middle school, when his family moved to Kentucky. He walked on to the Louisville baseball team and had a relatively undistinguished career with the Cardinals until his senior season, when he made a few mechanical adjustments and struck-out 58 in 59 innings and collected nine saves. Those numbers catapulted him up the draft boards, although it still surprised many when he was taken with the 56th overall pick by the Blue Jays in 2007.

Magnuson was sidelined by a sore elbow after signing with the Jays and didn't make his pro debut until 2008. He struggled that season as a starter and was moved to the bullpen in 2009. He hasn't looked back since the role change. In 2009 he had a 2.39 ERA in 71.2 innings for High-A Dundein and Double-A New Hampshire.

Magnuson improved in 2010 with New Hampshire. Although his ERA went up slightly (2.58), his strike-out rate jumped from 6.50 K/9 to 7.73 K/9 and his walk rate dropped from 3.80 BB/9 to 1.23 BB/9. Over the past two seasons, Magnuson has allowed only three homeruns in 144 innings. He was an Eastern League All-Star and a member of the World Team in this year's Futures Game.

In some respects, Magnuson is similar to former A's relief prospect Ryan Webb, who the A's traded to San Diego in the first Scott Hairston trade (and who was just traded from San Diego to Florida for Cameron Maybin). Like Webb, Magnuson stands in the 6'6'', 6'7'' range. Also like Webb, Magnuson had to work out a lot of kinks with his mechanics, a common affliction for taller pitchers. Magnuson doesn't have Webb's upper-90s velocity, but Magnuson's fastball does still in the low-90s consistently. He compliments it well with a solid split-finger, a slider and a good cut-fastball, which has become almost a required pitch in the A's system under minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. His command rates near the top of the scale, another asset that the A's value in their relief pitchers. Magnuson will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if not added to the A's 40-man roster this off-season, something that is almost certain to occur.

Farquhar shared a bullpen with Magnuson throughout the 2010 season and was the closer for much of the year in New Hampshire. The 5'11' righty from Louisiana-Lafayette racked up 17 saves and he struck-out 79 batters in 76.2 innings. He also held opposing batters to a .189 average.

The Florida native was a 10th round pick of the Blue Jays in 2008 and has been a reliever since turning pro. He has strike-out stuff as evidenced by his 184 strike-outs in 171 innings pitched. He employs a deceptive delivery that makes it very difficult for hitters to pick up the ball (he has allowed only 111 hits in his career), but he has also had control problems throughout his career, with a 4.78 BB/9 career rate. He currently is pitching in the Arizona Fall League and he has 12 strike-outs and six walks in 10 innings pitched.

Farquhar employs a couple of different arm slots depending on the situation. From his three-quarters slot, Farquhar's fastball is in the 92-96 MPH range. He can also drop down to an angle that is not quite submarine but is lower than sidearm. At that slot, he throws in the 88-91 range. He also has a cutter, a curveball and a slider. Not surprisingly given his release points, Farquhar induces a lot of groundballs.

This trade makes a lot of sense for Oakland. As I stated in my review of the David DeJesus deal, the A's have a number of outfielders on the roster who can fill the role that Davis has filled for the A's the past three seasons. The A's have speed on their roster in the form of Crisp and Cliff Pennington, and Crisp, Sweeney and DeJesus are all better defensive outfielders than Davis. Plus Davis is arbitration-eligible, which would likely make him an expensive fourth outfielder.

In addition, the A's have good centerfield depth in Triple-A. Matt Carson, who is an excellent defensive centerfielder, has re-signed with the A's as a minor league free agent. Corey Brown should start the season in Triple-A and he put together a fine 2010 season after a rough April and May. The A's have also come to terms with minor league free agent Jai Miller, according to Baseball America. Miller was in the A's organization briefly early in 2010 before he was claimed on waivers and he has the ability to play all three outfield positions. Michael Taylor can also play centerfield.

I also mentioned in that article that the A's have depleted a lot of their upper-level relief talent in trades for outfielders over the past few seasons. At the start of the 2010 season, Triple-A bullpen depth was a strength for the A's. But injuries and trades wore down that depth and by mid-season, the A's were having to scour the baseball world to find veteran arms for the River Cats' bullpen. With two quality relief prospects in Magnuson and Farquhar on board, the A's are less likely to have that happen again in 2011. The A's may also feel that they have the depth now to deal a major league reliever should the right trade come along.

Of course, all of this analysis is similar to the analysis I had of the last significant trade the A's and Blue Jays made involving a major leaguer, the trade of Marco Scutaro. While that trade didn't wind-up as a win for the A's in the long-run, the reasoning behind it at the time was still solid. The same will be true of this deal, even if Davis somehow adds a more patient approach to his game this off-season.

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